In the aftermath of the recent high profile terrorist strikes in Paris, San Bernardino, Calif., and a knife attack in a London subway station, many people may be on high alert about when and where it will be safe to travel.
How risky will it be to travel in 2016?
iJET International, a travel risk management company that identifies and tracks potential crises – from earthquakes and political and civil unrest to outbreaks of infectious disease – made a formal presentation earlier this month that looked at key threats that may impact travelers in the coming year.
“The outlook is not bright,” Bruce McIndoe, chief executive of iJET, said during the presentation for travel and risk managers at companies to prepare their employees. “As a community, we are anticipating that we will see an increase in attacks like we saw in Paris going forward,” he said, “definitely in Europe, but also, we believe, within North America.” But “I’m more concerned about micro terrorists than I am about human terrorists.” When viruses and diseases “wreak havoc,” he cautioned, “geographic and nation state boundaries mean nothing.”
Highlights identified by the company’s intelligence analysts include known megatrends of near term geopolitical risk: like the continuing instability in the Middle East; displays of power from China and Russia; and the Syrian refugee crisis, and another threat “that is always out there,” McIndoe said: such as attacks from biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons.
Here are a few predictions for 2016 that include some lesser known security, environmental and health threats:
Major El Niño – One of the worst El Niño events on record is expected to occur in the coming year. The water-warming phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean impacts everything from weather patterns to economics, and can be deadly.
Vaccine shortages in Europe – Due to the “ripple effect” of the Syrian refugee crisis, hundreds of thousands of people from the African continent are also expected to immigrate to Europe, bringing in historic diseases, like polio and tuberculosis. Inadequate vaccine supplies could stress European Union countries’ health systems, and screening for potential criminals and terrorists during the “mass immigration,” McIndoe said, may be “a major issue for security forces as the EU continues to grapple with the absorption of this many people in such as short a period of time.”
Spread of Zika virus through the Americas – A mosquito borne virus, similar to dengue fever has currently “spread steadily” through the Americas to about 14 countries, as far north as the Yucatan area of Mexico, a popular vacation region, McIndoe said. And “it can easily move into the Southern states in this country.”
Corruptions scandals and Summer Olympic Games in Brazil –“Those two issues could collide, resulting in protests and other wide spread problems,” McIndoe said, noting that there might be health issues associated with games in addition to security concerns. Visitors to Brazil, for example, can bring in disease or be exposed to ones like yellow fever and malaria that are endemic in certain areas of the country. Travelers “need to put that on their radar prior to arrival,” he said.
Black swans are “low probability events that are largely unpredictable,” McIndoe said. “Things that could come out of left field and have a major impact on what’s going on globally.” A major one is a coronal mass ejection, which occurs when eruptions in the sun cause the release of a massive burst of gas and magnetic field that can result in geomagnetic storms on earth. It is not a concern if the ejections are not too large or miss the earth’s atmosphere entirely, McIndoe said, but if a large one makes a direct hit on the earth’s atmosphere, normal safeguard’s can’t protect it. “If something like this was to happen, it could literally shut down telecommunications and power systems” he said, “for roughly ¼ of the earth facing the sun at that moment. It could take years to rebuild.”
Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of the Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry market research company, does not discourage travel, but instead advises travelers to plan ahead before they leave home and to take precautions. “What we want to be is smart, to be aware of the risks so we can be proactive,” he said. “But what we don’t want to happen is to be so fearful that we stop traveling. We need to take advantage of the technologies and information that are available to us.”
Harteveldt recommends doing research, like visiting the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States State Department, which has detailed country-specific pages about safety issues and threat levels, and to sign up for their alerts. “It’s important, especially for leisure travelers,” he said, who may not have access to the formalized response base that many companies have in place for their business travelers.
“Unfortunately, we don’t live in a Disney movie,” Harteveldt said. “Many of the targets of terrorism in recent years – Madrid, Mumbai, New York and Paris — “are world class, iconic destinations. To not visit them because of the fear of being attacked is understandable, but is sad,” he said. “But overall, I think there is a mindset among many people that if we don’t go to these place, the terrorists win.”
“Threats like these happen,” but there is great energy and momentum by people working to solve problems, McIndoe said, noting that it is important to remain hopeful and to keep risks in perspective. For example, a person has a far greater chance of dying in a commercial airplane, in a car or by being struck by lightning than as a result of a terrorist attack. Globally, the chance of getting killed by an act of terrorism is about 1 in 12 million; the chance of getting killed in a commercial airplane is about 1 in 10 million, and the chance of being struck dead by lightening in North America is about 1 in 4.5 million, or three times as likely as by an act of terror.
But one of the worst threats of all is on our nation’s roads. The chance of getting killed in a vehicle crash is about is about 1 in 37,000, he said, “many orders of magnitude higher…. than anything around terrorism.”
This article was written by Tanya Mohn from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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